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"Clarence Miller has made a lively and accurate translation which preserves the subtlety and wit of More's own Latin. Fluent and highly readable, this new version should be welcomed by all admirers of the Utopia." Louis Martz, Yale University "What Clarence Miller attempts - and accomplishes - here is a nuanced and textured rendition in English that says neither less nor more than the Latin itself." Daniel Kinney, University of Virginia"
Text: English (translation) Original Language: Latin
--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
This book has been on my reading list for a while, and I finally grabbed a copy to read when I got my Kindle. Thomas More, as well as many other famous men, put to writing a vision of the ideal society. As with most visions of the ideal society, he had some good ideas that were eventually put in place, but he also had many impractical ideas that won't work just due to the nature of man. It was also interesting to see that he came from an era that accepted several social mores such as slavery that today we find unacceptable and were deemed good institutions in his ideal society.
I think my favorite part was the method the Utopians used to minimize the importance of gold, fine apparel, and money. Gold and jewelry were considered baubles only interesting to children. They marked their slaves by bedecking them with gold. He related a story of a foreign ambassador coming to visit the Utopians. They mistook the gold bedecked ambassador as the slave and the plainly clothed slave as the ambassador and treated each as such.
I highly recommend this relatively short book as a glance into how people in the Middle Ages viewed the ideal society and also as a legitimate look at ongoing social problems. More highlights pride as one of the biggest problems facing society. It appears to be a continuing issue.
There were utopias before this book that Thomas More wrote in the early 1500s, including Plato's Republic. This, however, is the book that gives us the word 'Utopia.' The book is brief, barely over 100 pages, and only 60-some describe the place itself. That is enough, and makes me nostalgic for the habit of writing briefly and to the point.
It's easy to sum up More's heaven-on-earth in a few words. It portrays a communal, democratic society. It is paradoxically unregulated and tightly regulated - overwhelmingly, More's citizens just want to do what is best for their society, and that covers a remarkably narrow range of possibilities. There are, of course, some who break the laws of the land, and More deals with them harshly. "Harsh" is a relative term, though, and his punishments were hardly harsh in a day when it was a hanging offense to steal a loaf of bread for your starving family. (That's actually the introductory topic, the one that leads up to the description of Utopia.)
It's also a strongly religious society. Religious tolerance is a matter of law, a novelty by the standards of More's day and the standard of his own behavior. 'Tolerance', however, meant tolerance of any monotheism that wasn't too animistic, and certainly didn't tolerate the unreligious.
This translation from More's original Latin is modern and smoothly readable. Even so, I wonder how another translator would have handled some of More's neologistic names, like the unpleasant 'Venalians' who are the Utopians' neighbors. No answer is right, but other renderings may convey more and grate less. Those are quibbles, though. It's a good book as well as being a Great Book, and casts an interesting shadow into modern communism, theocracy, and ideas of the good life. I recommend it highly.
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I purchased the Penguin edition intially, so to have a compact copy of this essential work. However, I was thoroughly unimpressed with the edition. The translator, Turner, assumes very little of his reader and therefore "translates" some of More's most witty and erudite comments into bland, lifeless remarks. The most irriating example is that rather than keep the main character's name as Rafael Hythloday he has "translated" the name as "Rafael Nonsenso." Turner justifies this choice by saying that not many modern readers know classic Greek... true. But, it would have been better to footnote the original name and explain it's origin and meaning rather than translate the name into an obvious joke. By doing this Turner steals the very essence and beauty from the work. There are many other examples of Turner's tweaking that are maddening. However, I will say that the Introduction to the Penguin Utopia by Tucker is very nice. I especially enjoyed Tucker's discussion of "Utopian Literature." However, I recommend that you find the book in a library, photocopy the intro... and instead purchase the Hackett Publishing version (now available in paperback, I believe) which offers thorough and accessible footnotes to the text as well as a wonderful introduction.
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"Utopia", written in 1516 by Thomas More, is probably one of the most important books ever written. Why?. Simply because it influenced many people, and motivated many events: it made a difference... "Utopia" means, literally, "no place". The word didn't exist until More coined it in this book. He wanted to make a critic regarding the English society of his time, but needed to cloak it under a "fictional" mantle due to censure. Displeasing the king was very dangerous in More's time... What is this short novel about?. Well, More introduces us to an imaginary character, Raphael Hythloday, a traveler that has visited a distant country: Utopia. After meeting More, Raphael tells him about the country he visited, and afterwards More writes a book about what he was told. To begin with, in that country community is more important that private aims, and that fact permeates all social and political life. There is no private propriety of the means of production, and everything belongs to everybody. Work is obligatory to all healthy men and women, and those who want to do nothing are punished with forced labor. There is no money, but everybody has what is needed to live well, although frugally. Thanks to the fact labor is well distributed, leisure time is available to all. As a result, men and women (equals in this society) can dedicate time to cultivate their minds... Other important points that should be highlighted regarding Utopia, especially because they contrast strongly with the situation of More's England, are that in this country all religions are allowed, and that there isn't an autocratic rule (a democratically elected assembly and different local governments are elected).Read more ›